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The long road back
Trust is a muscle
I’m not an indecisive person. I’m a human with anxiety, so every decision I make is naturally fraught with apprehension, but I don’t usually struggle with making decisions. I have an embodied knowledge of what feels right and good, and for the most part, I follow that intuition. (Sometimes I make the wrong decision, usually because I have it in my head that what feels good and right is actually the opposite, but the actual decision-making never seems to cause much trouble.) So I can’t help but wonder why I’m having such a hard time picking my next book.
I’ve spent the past few weeks bouncing between projects. Both are books I love. Both are dark and whimsical and, in a word, me. One is half-finished, because I abandoned it back in 2021 to write TSATS, and one is an idea wrapped in a neat little Pinterest board. Objectively speaking, neither option is bad, but my brain refuses to acknowledge that. Somehow, without my permission, this decision has come to represent Every Decision I Will Ever Make about My Career as a Writer.
I hate being between projects. The overachiever in me feels like she needs to be productive at all times, so this liminality, this hideous in-between, is my worst nightmare. I’m objectively terrible at stepping back. At taking my time. When you almost die a dozen times as a child, you forget how to be anything but earnestly, urgently desperate.
So I’m struggling. Which, of course, is made worse by the fact that I can’t make up my damn mind.
While the overachiever in me is losing her shit, the therapist in me is having a grand old time. She has seen the indecisiveness for what it is and has decided, with all due arrogance, that she wants to dig deep and learn from this experience.
Mondays are my content days. Depending on the week, I draft either a column or a newsletter. (If I was a good advocate who actually posted on social media, I would be drafting Instagram posts every week as well, but c’est la vie.) So I was lying in bed last night, trying to nail down a topic while wrestling with my latest round of book woes, when my inner therapist piped up in all her self-aware glory.
You don’t trust yourself.
I laughed at the ceiling. It wasn’t a matter of trust! It was a matter of logic. What would make the best debut? What would be the best introduction to my work as a writer? What would be the easiest to sell to a literary agent? I wasn’t thinking with my heart so much as my head, and my head was the problem.
But the therapist in me wouldn’t shut up. She pointed out all the ways I’ve been self-sabotaging, like refusing to choose a book. Second-guessing every decision I make. Thinking that, by making the right decision, I can fix all my problems, like the doubt and the depression and the sinking fear that I should never have shelved TSATS. What if TSATS was my shot at making it big? What if I just buried my only chance at ever getting published?
I can’t think like that. I know I can’t. For one thing, publishing is stupidly unpredictable — there’s no guarantee that even an objectively perfect book would get an agent. And for another, I’ve seen firsthand how that kind of mindset can break a person, especially when that person is an artist who writes about their lived experiences through the lens of speculative fiction. It’s a dead end. It kills you slowly and surely as a rejection.
But I can’t help it. I can’t turn that part of my brain off. So I bounce between projects. I obsess over making the right decision, knowing all the while that, like perfection, it will always elude me. I self-sabotage, because ultimately, the therapist in me is right.
She almost always is.
More times than not, a title comes to me before the topic. This time was no exception. Lying bed in last night, I thought, “The long road back.”
The long road back to what? I asked.
Oh, to trusting myself.
Because I don’t. Trust myself. Logically, I know I’ll bounce back — I have every time before. But emotionally I am reliving the moment of realizing that, as much as I loved TSATS, I needed to set it aside. Emotionally I am telling the people I love that I am shelving the book they read for me multiple times. Emotionally I am rereading the final draft and wondering if I’ll ever be able to recreate its particular kind of magic.
Emotionally I am grieving.
How do you trust yourself again?
I don’t know if I have anything specific to offer right now other than action. There’s no right decision, so I choose a project and stick with it.
There’s no right decision; there’s only what feels right. So I listen to my body. I pay attention to what shows up. I give myself grace in moments of uncertainty and I keep moving forward.
The inspiration will come. The lightning strike of loving a story so much it hurts. The thrill of rereading something you wrote and thinking, That’s what I’ve been working towards. The excitement, the curiosity, the wonder and passion — it’s all still there, dormant in the dark of me. I just have to find it again.
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It’s that time of year again! If you’re attending this year’s Cure SMA conference, drop me a line — I’d love to meet up! I’ll also be participating in the “How to Build Your Presence and Advocate Through Writing & Social Media” panel alongside some of my SMA pals. Join us on Saturday, Jul. 1, at 10:45 a.m. in Asbury Hall C and D at the Yacht and Beach Club Resort Convention Center.
As always, I’ll be taking a hiatus from the internet, including social media (which I’ve been neglecting anyway lol oops) and this newsletter. I’ll be back mid-July with a book outline and hopefully a little more self-trust.